The journey back will be a long one, but with the reforms to Westminster that Renew is advocating, I believe we can build an even stronger relationship with the EU.
After four years we have finally left the EU. Now the question for Renew is what happens next. As a pro-EU party, the obvious answer would be: “Let’s campaign to immediately rejoin”. But is that possible and if so, reasonable?
If Boris Johnson performed a u-turn (that even by his standards would be stunning) and decided to write to the EU now to request the UK rejoins, the EU would of course be highly likely to refuse. However, if it did agree in principle, it would be in a very strong negotiating position. The deal the UK had as a member of the EU was the best deal of any country and it is extremely unlikely it would be willing to allow the UK to walk back in on the same terms.
Given the concessions the UK would have to make, it would be unlikely any Prime Minister would succeed in selling a deal to the British people at this time. This is one reason why I am advocating a step-by-step approach to repair the relationship with the EU and within the country.
Renew is more than a one-issue party and recognises that to win back widespread support for a return to the EU, there are underlying issues within our own political system and in our society as a whole that need to be fixed. Renew has already set out some of those proposed reforms.
Brexit was borne out of a mistrust of politicians and a feeling of many that they were being left behind. As we saw with Trump in the USA, populists feed off this despair and use it to popularise their Nationalist and divisive agendas.
However, as we have also seen with Trump, this never ends well. I don’t intend this piece to be a wider foreign policy discussion, but I believe the failure of western foreign policy over the past 30 years has allowed Nationalist leaders such as Trump, Johnson, etc to feed off the feeling amongst a significant proportion of the population in these countries that we need to look after ourselves first. Many now believe that ’Globalisation’ hasn’t worked and we need to stop immigration and involving ourselves in other countries’ problems.
However, I believe isolating ourselves is not the answer and we must show why an Internationalist policy is still the right approach, while learning from the past.
In conjunction with the reforms in Westminster that we believe are absolutely crucial, we need to begin the process of rebuilding our relationship with the EU. After the demonisation of the institution and major countries within it by the Leave campaign, followed by a protracted period of largely bad tempered negotiations and mud throwing, we now have what is known as a “Hard Brexit” with a deep mistrust on both sides.
Our connection with the EU, like a giant cable, has been cut and each of those individual wires will need to be reconnected. Therefore, I believe this requires a series of steps which will take a number of years, but is the only way to restore the trust of the electorate and agreement that being part of the EU is key to the UK’s future prosperity and standing in the World. The true adverse effects of Brexit, whilst some are already evident, will take some time to really show through. The last thing we want is for any harm to come to this country, but in order for the significant majority to want that return is for the true benefits to be missed.
The agreement reached is what Keir Starmer described as a “bare bones deal”. It was clear that desperation set in for Johnson during the last days of December as he realised that leaving without any deal would be catastrophic. It means that, due to a rushed and botched deal combined with idealogical zealotry for the mythical ‘Sovereignty’, a number of key elements have been left out that could have clearly continued without the UK being members.
The first step is to campaign to rejoin those schemes. This can be done without a renegotiation of the trade agreement as they would supplement it.
One that has a direct impact on members of my family and many other students is ERASMUS (European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students). The scheme helps to fund students to study and work across the EU and has enabled hundreds of thousands of students to broaden their knowledge and experience. However, the government refused to include this in the agreement and now the cost and difficulties of arranging placements in Europe without the help of this scheme will no doubt prevent a significant number of students from gaining that valuable experience. It makes no sense to deprive our youngsters of the opportunity to widen their horizons and the government should be pushed to sign the UK back in.
Mutual recognition of professional qualifications is another major area of concern. The health profession, in particular, relies on immigration from the EU and to add further barriers, on top of the limits imposed as part of the points based immigration system will deter highly skilled doctors and nurses from coming to the UK.
The next stage will be in four years when the agreement allows a renegotiation. This will likely be after the next General Election and gives the opportunity for a government with a more sympathetic stance to the EU to bring the UK closer again and hopefully back into the Single Market and Customs Union.
Whether we will ever get to the final stage of full membership again will depend on a number of factors, but as a party Renew believes we are stronger as a nation in the world’s largest trading bloc and working together with our closest neighbours. In a world where China is becoming ever more dominant, India is turning into an economic power and Russia, along with China, provides a threat to the stability of the West, it seems inconceivable the UK would want to cut adrift to leave itself further exposed to these threats. Who knows what the next four years will bring, but we do not hold much optimism that our current government can take us to the ‘Sunlit Uplands’ that the Leave campaign promised. The journey back will be a long one, but with the reforms to Westminster that Renew is advocating, I believe we can build an even stronger relationship with the EU.
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